Burundi Expels Top WHO Coronavirus Officials

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza 2015 | AP Photo/Gildas Ngingo

Three top World Health Organization representatives in Burundi: Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo; the country’s COVID-19 coordinator, Dr. Jean Pierre; communicable diseases head and two others have all been declared persona non grata on Tuesday, 12 May 2020 by the government in Burundi.

The WHO officials are warned to leave the country latest by today, Friday according to an unsigned letter addressed to the WHO Africa.

No official reason(s) has been advanced by the government for such measures.

This is the second time the government has taken similar steps this year. It has earlier aborted plans to expel the officials last month according to diplomatic sources.

While confirming the removal of its staff from Burundi, WHO Africa have also declined to comment on the reason leading to this decision claiming that they’re not aware of the reason behind these drastic measures.

“I was made aware through a note verbale about this decision of the government of Burundi which has asked our WHO representative and three other persons … to leave the country immediately,” WHO Africa director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti confirmed on Thursday.

However, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti revealed that WHO Africa is in communication with the government to “understand the reasoning behind this decision.”

While it is not yet confirmed, reports have indicated that the government is displeased with the conduct of WHO officials and their “unacceptable interference in the management of coronavirus”. 

In its reaction on the matter, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said the move by the Burundian authorities is “unfortunate” citing the need for technical expertise in the continent to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a population of more than 11 million, Burundi has officially recorded 27 cases and one death from the coronavirus and it is set to go to the polls on 20 May 2020 to elect a new President along with parliamentarians and local representatives.

The incumbent President, Pierre Nkurunziza, has been in power in Burundi since 2005 and highly rated to win the election again.